Rungs and legs

I’m making some three legged stools. This needs three legs for each one and three rungs (fairly obviously). I’m not sure yet how many stools there will be so I’ve made plenty of legs and rungs. They are not all the same as you can see:

What I’ve done is turn these up getting the best sizes out of the ash logs I’ve used. So I’ve ended up with a random selection of sizes. Two stools have to be of a specific height for an order, but the rest can be what I fancy as they will be stock items for sale as is. Looking at the legs I need to turn up a couple more to get full matching sets.

Random has a resonance with me as my father was a stone mason and random walling was often mentioned at home, that’s walling where the stones’ courses are just as thick as the beds being extracted from the quarry. Here’s an example of random stone walling (from a supplier’s site):

This all fits in with a book I’m currently reading “The Unknown Craftsmen: a Japanese Insight into Beauty”by Soetsu Yanagi and Bernard Leach.  This is a fascinating and illuminating read centred around the hand made artefact.

Balsam poplars

Yesterday morning I managed to remember to visit the balsam poplars as the buds break into leaf.  The name gives the game away – they have a distinctive odour at this stage, rather pleasant.  They do look a bit out of place compared to the rest of Strid and will be removed in due course under the “Recovering” SSSI status (see the oak in the foreground to take over?).  They grow very rapidly and take root very easily from branches left on the bank.  They are rather brittle too – three lost their tops in a medium breeze last year.  The timber is very open being fast grown and I found a sample difficult to turn, but I bet it would be OK for carved bowls.

The odour is quite strong until overtaken by standing in a bunch of these fellows:

Wild garlic.  See the flower bud coming?  They do smell very strong when bruised.

Horrid smelly job

I’m milling chestnut that I bought from the estate. It’s a lousy job. Bent over a hot chainsaw mounted in it’s milling frame, wrapped in protective clothing with noise and smelly exhaust fumes. The butt is quite big for my little mill, which could use a beefier saw with a longer bar but I can just about get by, but it’s slow work. I sliced off all the bark first as the butt had been dragged by contractors along the track from where it was felled studding it with gravel, which would be bad news for the chain on the saw. Then, to make it fit the mill, I sliced off two slabs from each side with the mini mill. This reduces the roundness and gets rid of a layer of sap wood which is too prone to beetle attack to use. Then it’s just through and through with the mill, very slowly. On the first attempt at cutting the side slabs I mounted the saw wrongly in the jig and got covered in saw dust! In my ears, down my shirt – everywhere, good lesson, won’t make that particular mistake again.

Meanwhile in the afternoons I’m turning legs (just like a bodger) for some stools I’m making. Two are commissons and the rest are for the shows I’m attending this year. I’ll be making the rungs today and seeking out some seat tops.

Eastburn Playing Fields opening

On Saturday Jane and I attended the opening of the extensively refurbished Eastburn Playing Fields.  This is now a great place for kids and adults with a wetland area, sturdy play equipment, running track and trackbike rock pile.  I was there with my number three lathe which was my first one and now usually lives in pieces in the garage at home.  It was it’s first outing this year, and was as ever very popular, quite a few adults and children had a go, including a lady from Todmorden who wanted me to make here a chapatti rolling pin, and she put some work into it so she could say she helped make it.

Jane was running an Aunt Sally shy which was perhaps even more popular than the lathe.  We don’t play this Oxfordshire pub game up here so it had great novelty value.  Basically you throw sticks to knock a stylised Aunt Sally from the top of a post, good simple fun.

I was very keen on meeting my neighbour who was the blacksmith Jim Cooper from Bacup who’d made beautiful seating and gates for the playing fields.

The firm is called The Pennine Forge Limited and they do some beautiful work

Get the little man with the questionmark hair – he’s a nut cracker!

The smithing luckily carried on after I’d stopped for the day

I asked for a poker/rake for our Big Bad Bessie woodburner as I need to pull logs to the front where the air comes in so the fire stays in.  Jim found that the local soil worked as a very good welding flux as he made the poker for me.  Wish I’d had my proper camera rather than my old phone.

The poker turned out rather well,  it’s great to have a poker made by a blacksmith owning the surname of another craft (cooper or barrel maker) who used to be a potter.  Jim says that potting and blacksmithing are pretty similar, starting with a formless material, the fire is just applied at opposite ends on the process.

Jim’s thinking of running some night classes, which would be a great way for me to learn how to make bowl turning hooks, which Jim was very interested in as all crafts have their peculiar tools, mostly made by smiths.  He’s made a broom squire’s clamp in the past for compressing the broom-head twigs while they’re tied.

Busy, busy, busy

OK, opened the charcoal kiln:

Not a bad burn. Made 29 5 kilo sacks of top class barbecue charcoal. Quite a few ‘brown ends’ where the wood has not quite converted, but these help start the next burn. Looks like I stopped it just at the right time as there is evidence of the charcoal starting to burn at two of the inlet ports. It was quite windy during the burn so some care was required with controlling the air inlets. Very technical involving slabs of wood and socks filled with sand.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ve been making a display ladder for the bowls

I borrowed the idea from Saul at Wild About Wood. His is a hurdle construction, while mine is more of a turned affair. I’m afraid I’m going to have to keep this way from visitors’ hands as they will never be able to manage handling them without dropping the bowls (from past experience!)

Just about completed the round three-legged stool

I’ll take another when it’s complete as it looks a little crooked in this one. It is true really, honest!

The ramsons are really thick now that Spring is well under way:

But still awaiting leave flush, although there are signs on the sycamores and hazels. The bluebells are just starting to flower

At least three are round my workshop.

Damson Day

Just back from a smashing day out at Damson Day in the Lyth Valley. It is small scale, just what we like and we arrived first thing before it got too busy on a lovely sunny day

We were told several times that this was the first time they had held Damson Day with NO BLOSSOM! They reckon it has been delayed at least two weeks by the hard Winter weather. But just after lunch something started to happen …

Yeah! The buds started bursting in the sunshine:

There was a lot going on, including Owen Jones bashing away at making oak swill baskets:

His baskets really are beauties:

There were several other green wood workers there and I had a good chat with Edward Acland about tenon joints in hurdles and gates. He has a natty design in stripped ash poles – goats’ teeth finish, apparently his goats love to eat the bark!

We moved on when it started to get really busy after we’d had our picnic, but not before buying a young damson sapling to partly replace the silver birch at home.

Some glorious views over Lake Windermere:

Rounding off our trip to The Lake District with a cuppa from the Kelly Kettle amongs some clear(ish) felling.