More woodwork ideas with John Elliot, master craftsman

Posted under Wood

Check out this great idea!
It is a spinning game and 5 year old children can make it with a little help from mum or dad.


It is simply a ring of timber cut from a branch.
Two holes need to be drilled with a hand drill (children can turn the handle whilst the adult supervises the safe grip of the timber in a vice), just like a button.
Children can then sand the timber with sandpaper to smooth it.


Then, it is just a matter of threading a nice thick piece of wool or string about 1metre in length through one hole and back through the other, then tying a knot in the end.
The child then holds both ends of the wool and begins to twist it around by spinning the ring in the air in a forward rolling motion.
When you finish twisting, pull the two ends tight and the bead begins to spin on the thread.

John showed people how to make spinning tops using the same timber ring.
You can make it more colourful and appealing by asking children to draw a lovely pattern or design on a piece of cardboard the same size as the disk. Use a hole punch to cut a hole in the card, then slip it over the top of the handle.
The children can experiment with all kinds of mandalas and patterns to their fancy!


This big ball fit snug into my hand but gee, it was pretty substantial in weight!
It is simply John playing- whittling a large piece of hardwood a bit at a time until it becomes rounded, and smooth.  When it has been sanded, the ball can be used for ball games where you need something to roll along the floor.
Probably not for throwing!

One of the participants made his own mallet.
Perfect for knocking in “stick cubby” posts or herb markers or cracking macadamias.
Imagine when children see us making these kinds of regular tools from scratch in the most simple of ways.
It is not something most children will see today so what a treat to make it with them!

Here is a selection of John’s tools.



This is John with a hand drill.
I see these all the time at car boot markets but never knew what they were for.
You can pick them up pretty cheaply too.

This is a close up of one of the drill bits used for making holes in the disks.


Wouldn’t you just love one for your home?
John makes a lot of handcarved animals and toys for children and is happy to work to requests.
He may also be available to teach simple woodworking to your little ones, or to a group of parents or teachers…
He is a fabulous, happy-go-lucky fellow whom I can imagine that young children (and all creative adults) would just love!
Contact John by calling (03) 9737 0760
He is based in Mt Evelyn, Victoria.

6 Responses to “More woodwork ideas with John Elliot, master craftsman”

  1. MustBeThursday

    Thats so inspiring. We had a tree fall down in the park, almost hit our fence. So we went out and collected lengths of branches from it. Its all waiting in the toolshed for the right creation. I think Whatever i create with it, i definitly need a hand drill! Less intimidating for me then a powerdrill.

  2. Anonymous

    Thanks Amber, this is great! You have inspired our family to contact John to learn some more (and he is in Melbourne too). We have always wanted to learn more about basic woodworking in a fun way.

  3. Ronnie

    Thanks for the pics of the hand drill. I remember using one of these as a child with my grandfather. I have been looking for one for ages to share with my son but they are not readily available where I live. You have inspired my to continue looking

  4. Amber Greene

    How good are those handdrills! And to think our grandpa’s probably all had one. I think I just never paid any attention. what’s the bet there is going to be a sudden resurgence in their popularity inspired by John’s simple tips?? See you at the carboot!

    PS Say hi to John for me!

  5. guildmaker

    My small boy was lucky enough to have John as his guide in little kinder at dandenong ranges steiner school in 2010. he was a wonderful man and an inspiring guide for those small ones in his care. james still has the wooden trucks he made with john at school. he holds a special place in our hearts and i am so glad you had a chance to learn from him. what a great guy, hey?

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