The French Collection DVD
Volume 1
An Introduction to
The Bedan Tool

by Jean Francois Escoulen

Published by KTMP, UK

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As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 162

Jean François Escoulen began turning in his father's workshop in 1972. Although there is little that is traditional in his current designs, he believes his early training can still be seen in them. Today, he divides his time between teaching and the pursuit of highly innovative creations. Based in Puy Saint Martin (just north of Provence in southern France), he offers courses ranging from beginners’ to advanced woodturning.

An Introduction to the Bedan

Made at Hunter's Lodge in England, this DVD shares the same intrinsic values of other presentations made at this location. It is competently produced, the video is well lit, the close-ups are informative and the sound is carefully modulated.

Escoulen speaks English well, though with an unmistakable accent, sometimes hesitating, searching for the right word. It is interesting that he never seems to hesitate over technical words. These he uses with clinical precision.

His accent and the fact that he frequently makes his commentary against the background of the lathe running, means that the listener needs a degree of concentration to pick up every word. But the concentration is rewarded with illuminating insights into the way in which this master woodturner produces some of the pieces for which is justifiably famous.

Escoulen begins his presentation with a demonstration of the bedan. He describes this as a traditional French woodturning tool and acknowledges that to use it correctly takes a good deal of practice.

The bedan is a chunky, acutely bevelled chisel which is used with the bevel facing upwards. In operation, only the points on either side of the bevel are employed. In this video, Escoulen shows how the tool is used to cut semi-circular faces into a spindle. The movement of the tool during the cut is complex. At the same time as the point advances into the cut, the tool is rotated around its axis as well as being rotated in the plane of the tool around the moving point of support on the toolrest.

That description alone should indicate the value of being able to see the tool in action and many viewers will, no doubt, wish to watch the close-ups several times before venturing to experiment with a bedan in their own workshop.

The rest of the disk is taken up with a step-by-step account of turning a trembleur. It is said that these extraordinary items were once used as a test of skill for apprentices. The origin of their name is obvious, though they look so delicate, that one would have to be brave to go beyond subjecting a trembleur to more than the very minimum of movement.

A trembleur is turned between centres from a single workpiece which may be up to a metre or more long. It consists of variously shaped elements, the connections between them being no more than 2 or 3mm thick (or should that be ‘thin’?).

Escoulen turns his trembleur with a bedan, supporting the fragile spindle with string steady rests.

Duration: 1hr 45mins, 1 disc

DVD - English