Chopping a bench

Hi again!  Still Spring here with Red Campion, Ramsones and Corn Cockle blooming away.

So, today I’ve been making a bench as ordered.  The top is from the chestnut I bought from the estate.  As mentioned before,it typically grows with a twist in the grain so is unsuitable for splitting and so I milled it into planks with the chain saw.  This left me with a stack of slabs – the outer round sections from squaring up the butts.  One of these will be the bench seat:

Rather rough looking.  The first job is to hack away the first three or so rings of sap wood which, as in oak, is unsuitable for long life, being prone to attack by fungi and insects.

The sap wood is the light-coloured stuff.

Now I’ve cut it to length (4 foot 2) so it’s a bit lighter to work on.  The off cut will make a table, I’ve decided.  It’s light enough to go on #4 chopping block for the bottom section. Cutting off the sap wood from the edges needs consideration to be given to the direction of the grain twist; I need to chop down along the grain as it rises out of the twist, otherwise the grain splits into the body of the timber – bad thing! Chop from one end at one side and from the opposite end on the other side.

Done!  What a lot of shavings:

Some people ask if I ever sweep up – silly question!  This stuff is too valuable as an insect repellent – when smoldering in the stove.

OK there are a couple of faults, dead knots:

The end one would annoyingly very nearly do as a hole for a leg, except it only slopes back and not sideways too as it should.  I think I’ll make a dummy leg to shove in there and see what it looks like.  The surface is fresh off the chain saw mill.  This will be an out door bench so that may be the way to leave it, or maybe plane it  .. or adze …

Decisions decisions …

Here’s the log for the legs (and a spare pair for the table):

Lucky people there’s also a view of a couple of drumsticks (honest – that’s how they were specified) and a bag of my charcoal.

And here are two of the legs:

Sorry, they’re out of focus.

Watch this space for more, interesting assembly line production of – the bench!  Coming soonish to a blog near you (well not before Saturday.)

Shavings that have flown

I often tell visitors that the best part of my job is making shavings, so here is a little collection of current shavings.

These are axed shavings from the chestnut slabs I’ve made into a gate and fence at home:

These are classic ash shavings from the pole lathe, could be from stool legs, rungs or the various treen I make for passers-by:

Here are some shavings from the shave horse:

They are ash mainly.  Yesterday the horse broke, honestly they don’t make stuff like they used to!  The top turned member of the frame that grips the work snapped.  Seemed to be made of beech or sycamore.  It had weakened where the thin part meets the thick, always a weak point.  Mind you it has spent nearly two years out in all weathers so the 1/2 hour turning a new oak one wasn’t too bad an imposition.

The next lot are more chips than shavings. They are made when I reduce a split log to a billet with my axe.  They are good on the fire, but the horse shavings make the premium quality kindling.

And thank Goodness I willn’t be making any of this today:

This is the dust produced when I’m milling.  A nasty mixture in this case of cooking oil, moisture and chestnut.  It sticks to everything and makes anything metal turn black because of its high tannin content.  It is so fine, unlike the chippy normal chainsaw shavings because I use a ripping chain in the mill to cut boards.  Well that’s all done for now.  I even quickly milled some stickers to space the boards as they air dry.  I’ll put those between the boards today.

Main job today is getting ready for Otley Show on Saturday.  Make sure there’s a light shelter frame in usable condition (for a sun shade hopefully!), more stools, dibbers, cockerels, busy busy!

More stools

Development of a stool.

Three legged stools are quite popular. They were often used in places where the floor was uneven as they are self levelling – stools with three legs do not rock. So they were used e.g to sit on when milking, they are good for this as the front two legs allow the tilting forwards that’s required when getting to the teats at the far side of the beast. This was taken to an extreme in some areas with a belt on one legged milking stool:

I’m making two three leggers at the moment for a client as previously mentioned. I already had a five minute one made from scraps so I could sit and carve bowls in the so passé vertical bowl clamp. It was rather an oddity with a longer leg to accommodate the slope on the workshop floor. That’s the really rough-looking one at the right of the picture above. Then I made a prototype, but based on a round-topped one so I laid out the legs on the same basis – dividing a circle into sixths (then thirds) with a pair of compasses. This didn’t work well – see the one at the back with the wedges sticking out. I’m going to remodel the top into a shape that reflects the leg layout.

However, I’m rather pleased with the way this one is going:

I’ll get it glued and wedged today.

I’m also working on making more space in the workshop by rationalising the lathes. I’m combining the bowl and spindle lathes into one, making new poppets for the single bed original lathe and reorganising the stiffer pole than drives the bowl version. It’s also time to sort out the horse, I’ll be sawing a log to provide a new bed for it, of the conventional style with a flat bed. Watch this space…

And for a little relaxation a shrink pot in alder:

New pencil sharpener

I thought one of these would come in handy for sessions with children or when time is too limited for learning how to make an accurate tenon the pole lathe e.g when someone wants to make a stool in a day. I bought mine here.

Veritas are renowned for decent kit. I already have a 1 inch and a 1 1/2 inch tenoner and they both perform really well. This little number does really work like a pencil sharpener, but on a larger scale and, of course, produces a tenon or a dowel. There are good instructions in the box, showing how to hold it without wearing out your skin on the sharp bits that hold the blade in place. It also shows how to use a drill to produce dowel. Nah! Blummin’ instructions, what is life if you can’t sort things out yourself. I sawed up some very dry straight-grained oak first to produce the blanks:

These are about 1/2 inches square and about 4 inches long, I sawed them with my trusty old band saw (powered by a 1960s washing machine motor). The cutter makes 7/16ths dowel so 1/2 inch is just oversize. At first it’s possible to turn the blank in the cutter by hand, but once the outfeed starts coming out the friction gets a bit of a pain, so I squirted some lube on and it turned OK. Helped my hands by using a spanner to turn the blank. Trouble then is the blank square end eventually disappears into the infeed of the cutter and there’s not enough on the outfeed to get hold of and turn the blank to finish the job. Here comes the solution:

Drilled an interference fit hole in a one inch thick beech block, the friction was not enough to hold the dowel while turning the cutter, so I drilled for a screw that can be tightened into the dowel to hold it from rotating. Now really easy to finish off, just turn the cutter and pull a bit until all the blank is done and the cutter slips off the end. Loosen the screw and knock the dowel out, quick rub on some sandpaper (recycled palm sander stuff) to put a bevel on the end and ready for whacking into the hole:

Mrs Law was not very impressed with the greenwood chestnut gate I’ve been making for the way into the field, too many bolts:

Well a mixture of coach bolts and coach screws actually, but I was inclined to agree, they did take something away from the handmade look. Much better now:

Just three bolts holding the brace in place that spreads the weight back to the left hand side where the hinges will be. I’ve sawn a disused electricity pole to length and split it in two to make the hinge post and sneck post. Digging them in and hanging the gate are tomorrow’s jobs.