Ghostly water drinker

Sorry no photos today. The phone’s battery was flat and camera at home. Update tomorrow hopefully.

I have a log of what I thought might be willow, but which turns out to be chestnut. Not too good for indoor bowls, but great for outdoors as its high tannin content is a good preservative against the weather. When green it also makes a dark blue stain in contact with steel, so spoiling indoor work. So I decided on the spur to carve a bird bath. Using the new tools I bought on the recent course it only took just over an hour to produce. I ambled down to the River Wharfe and brought it back up to the workshop, spilling a little on the way. A couple of hours later there was no water in the bath. Drat, does chestnut pass water (pun intended)? A couple who had watched me starting it wanted to buy it, but I was not happy about selling a leaky vessel. At home carried out some research on chestnut properties, no hint of it being leaky (I was going on the basis that the timber has large, visible vessels that the sap passes along). Filled it with water an hour ago and it’s still full. What I think happened is a mysterious thirsty dog had a good drink and emptied it.

Funnily enough I also decided to carve a water bowl for our friends the dogs (as they tend to say in France, except in French, of course). Nice and heavy, and an exercise in a round carved bowl.

I need to get some birch over from home tomorrow and carve another proper, civilised bowl for humans, afterall they’s the ones what pays, but hopefully they also like bowls for their friends the animals and birds.

Back from Derbyshire


I’ve just returned from an excellent bowl-carving course run by Robin Wood in Edale, Derbyshire.

I went via Halifax which I must say, I’d forgotten contains some fine stone buildings:

The course was held in the tidy little village hall and I stayed in the YHA with a couple of other course members.

Mind you it didn’t stay tidy for long – seven people hacking away at logs carving swedish bowls for two and a half days produced quite a good number of sacks of shavings.

Robin is an inspired and inspirational teacher and I’m sure everyone had a great time, if they got as much out of it as did I. We all produced decent bowls and learnt important techniques.

I made a couple of curvy bowls, I am very pleased with the second, boat-shaped one. A little more work needed but the form is there.

An important part of the course was learning how the look at what you’re working on and what are the essential parts to concentrate on, like the main lines of the form, if you want to find out more book onto one of Robin’s courses, he also runs spoon making courses which are a little less physically demanding and a good introduction to the joys of making useful things with your hands from green wood. You can buy tools from him too,

read books and chat over tea, coffee biscuits and excellent home-made lunches served on wooden ware and eaten with wooden spoons, even the tea and coffee containers deserve close study:

I also met a bunch of very interesting people with common interests

All in all an excellent outing. Expect extravagant hand carved bowls coming to this blog soon!

The white stuff

OK, more snow, so it looks like a day in the newly tidied garage where I should have enough room to put up the horse and shave some birch spatulas and rough out some bowl blanks.
There are some compensations for all the disruptions, like garden birds:

Great excitement as a pair of Bullfinches turned up at the feeder (hope they leave the apple buds alone)

I suppose I’ll be eating my tiffin, left over from last night’s curry feast, at home today instead of in Strid, the snow is still falling.

We had my brother and sister in law for dinner – they were drinking the wine, not us, honest! It is Lent you know.

OK as soon as the bread comes out of the oven I’m off into the icebox, aka the garage.

Coppice work

I took my wife and daughter out for a couple of hours coppicing work at Lord’s Wood, Giggleswick, N Yorkshire:

This is a wood attached to a recently closed limestone quarry. It is a nature reserve managed on a voluntary basis by Craven Conservation  Group and Natural England’s Ingelborough staff .  Interesting mixture of sycamore, lots of ash, small elms, individual larches, hazel and a small amount of beech and cherry (and probably others that I didn’t see).

The wood is all about the same age and must have been clear felled a few decades ago.  It is based on a limestone pavement complete with clints and grykes, but which, unlike many in The Dales, are unexposed and covered over with a thick layer of vegetation, mainly moss at this time of year.  I’m told by those who know that there is interesting flora and I’ll be returning to check it out in Spring.

The work was to reduce the amount of sycamore and create some clearings.

There was an opportunity to obtain some sycamore timber, which is good for kitchen tools being close grained, but the stacks of wood made me think a charcoal burn might be fun later in the year, which seemed to meet with approval. There’s plenty of wood as the clearing has been going on for a couple of Winters or three:

Back at the bodgery work has been moved home temporarily due to transport problems (enough said).  I’m working on small tables and bird tables and stools.  Pictures later.

And after the excellent Mastercrafts programme on BBC2 last Friday there was a lot of interest in the bodgery on Sunday, even a few courses to set up.

More bowls

It was a sunny morning, so I gathered the latest bowls on the bank of the Wharfe and took their photo. At last the technique is beginning to sink in to my head and hands, thanks to some very helpful hints from Paul Atkin and Robin Wood .

I’m happiest with my latest effort:

This is quite an open one, but the larger items need a suitably large piece of wood to use as a blank.

Here is the one on the lathe just now:

I start by splitting a log and then axing it to a rough hemi-sphere, then the mandrel is mounted for the strap to run on, and then it’s much treadling and cutting with the bowl hooks.  A good way to keep warm on a Winter’s morning!

Sometimes …

Sometimes you just get going and the whole thing stops, suddenly.  Never mind.  On Sunday I was just getting into a groove with bowl turning, having substituted a hi-tech strap for the cord I broke Thursday, when the strap snapped!  Boff!  Today I rigged up a leather strap, which probably won’t stand the pace for long, but may get me to the next recycled conveyor belt strap, which is supposed to be the business for bowl lathes.  Turning a bowl on a pole lathe is quite a high energy affair.  It certainly works up a sweat, even in the frost. The bowl has to turn quickly to get a decent finish and control of the cutting tool is vital, and like anything new takes a little getting used to and mastering comes later.

Sometimes the solution lies in wait and jumps out at you.  Again on Sunday (a good sunny day otherwise) all four wheels on the trailer (which is a mere six months old) were jammed as I towed it out of Strid.  The brakes were locked on, and as there are four of them, that’s quite some drag, even for a beefy Land Rover.  Three wheels were free by the time we got out of the wood, but the fourth just refused to budge.  After a lot of jerking, reversing, rocking, rolling, bouncing, decided to take the wheel off, go home on three and sort the prob out at home.  And then, sometimes this happened before, sleeping on it solved the problem.  Went out this morning, all ready to heat the blighter up, hammer it gently with a mallet etc, but it was free already.  Now I find this was another of those time machine problems.  Easy to solve if you go back and do something else in the first place.  What I should have done was time-travelled back and not applied the handbrake before laying the trailer up for a week.  So today I’ve fashioned a pair of wedges (well found them in the heap of logs I turned out on the splitter) drilled a hole in them and attached a rope loop  – stops them getting confused with the other logs if nothingelse.  Just like the chocks they used for aeroplanes, I can now leave the brakes off when the trailer’s parked up and use the chocks.  The problem apparently has become worse since asbestos is no longer used in brake linings  (of course it’s “a good thing” that we don’t use a deadly poison to stop wheels going round any more).  Modern brake linings bond to the brake drum and lock on.  Leaving them off avoids the problem.  So you see, not doing something is sometimes positive.

Sometimes if you leave something it works out while you’re not thinking about it.  This is a piece of tested wisdom, oh yes.  Doesn’t work for everything, of course, but sometimes …