APF swag

I managed to be pretty restrained at the APF show in my shopping therapy.  I’d gone with the intention of buying a filing guide, and that’s what I got.  Didn’t even buy a coffee, but had to buy some breakfast cereal (thanks  to Mike for bringing that in!) as I forgot to bring it. Here’s the guide:

I’m a Stihl man meself, but a friend of mine, Ed Kyrk recommended this little gizmo, it was recommended to him by someone throwing his Stihl file guide in the burn and giving him the Husqvarna one to use.

This is how it works:

The guide is a little saddle which fixes the angle as two notches sit on the bar/chain, the clear plastic jobbies are rollers.  The whole set up moves in the vertical axis with the chain so you don’t need to angle the file in the horizontal plane.  The magic is though, you can see exactly what the sharpened link is looking like AND the file can roll.  I started using it as I’d seen Ed do, without a handle so it would roll.  That was a bit uncomfy so I thought I’d try the red handle (good colour, less likely to disappear on a shaving covered floor).  Turns out the handle lets the file roll too.  The guide for the depth gauge on the chain , as you can see has two depths, one for hard wood and one for soft wood (eh?). All in all an excellent £13 worth.  You used to be able to buy the guide on its own, but now it comes as a set.  RECOMMENDED.

Away from the razor-sharp and noisy world of chain saws (and we heard enough of those 400cc competition screamers at the APF!) the single nasturtium outside our front window has grown into a giant – take a butcher’s* at this!

* Cockney rhyming slang – butcher’s hook – look.

Association of Professional Foresters Show, Cannock Chase

Back from a rather full three or four days camping on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire with a load of other old woodies.  This was the scene for the APT World Championship Log to Leg Race.  I think there was about a baker’s dozen of pole lathe turners and green woodworkers assembled for three days of racing and demonstrations for the benefit of the punters attending the huge biennial trade show for all things forestry.  We were in the Vintage and Woodland crafts area. This was about half of our set up:

As you can see, a beautiful day on Saturday, which made up for the chilly wind on Friday and Thursday’s thunderstorm with torrents of rain.  As I was camping in a freegun tent with unknown water-repellent qualities, I pitched it each night under the lathe shelter.  Somehow it always seemed to have got dark before I pitched it!

I was set up between Richard Ely And James Pumfrey who works at Kew’s Wakehurst Place where the James Bond type seed bank is housed in an extensive collection of gardens and woodlands.  It was all very friendly, to say we were all competing twice a day in a team and individual log to leg race.  Every time someone had a kettleful of boiling water, the excess was offered round.  There was also much exchange of useful information and skills.  Here are some of Richard’s spoons, turned from one piece and then split and hollowed with a spoon knife.

Barn was there making spoons too:

Barnaby has a peddlar’s licence and is walking around Britain making spoons and selling them.  Here he is in his residence:

If you meet him, do buy one of his spoons, they’re great – he’s made over 500 so far.

Barn was camped next to Mark Allery, he’s an affable chap, and 8th in the world in log to leg racing (I’m a mere 9th), amongst lots of other woody stuff Mark makes rakes (and an excellent blackberry liqueur):

There were many other interesting craft people on our bit of the site, someone hewing a dug out boat, vintage tractors powering a wood milling machine by belting, tools stalls, charcoal burners, Owen Jones making swill baskets and Gerry Atkinson making clog soles with a stock knife:

Sorry I didn’t catch his face, but he did warn me there’s a lot of bending involved.  A stock knife is what I need for shaping the outside of my carved bowls.  Gerry kindly let me have a go on his straight knife to finish shaping a bowl I had been demonstrating (OK half a bowl actually – it was an unsuccessful experiment with a poplar log).  It was really sweet, so much power and so much control.  I have various feelers (including one in France where there were many cloggers) out for obtaining one, but it may well be a long wait

Altogether an excellent three days.

Postscript: quotes of the weekend, “I’ve found out how to make those logs that burn.”; “Why is poplar not popular?”; “Richard Law’s guilty secret is that he used to be a capstan lathe operator.”; “We don’t want bananas.”; “The water stand pipes were condemned.”; “Is that in the bible?”; “You weren’t a vegetarian when you were in the army.”; “Put a shaving in it.”

All back to front

I’ve just finished a rush job.  I hate rushing.  I used to do it all the time.  This stool was ordered last week, and is required for a birthday on Friday.  I’m away at the APF biannual show at Cannock Chase from tomorrow, so it had to be done double quick.  I had a good piece of dry elm so I worked that up and made the holes for the legs, and turned down some legs and stretchers I’ve had drying it the house for weeks for another job.  Jane made a good job of the requested naming by fire of the seat, got a coat of oil on it,  and today I put it all together.  Only I found I’d left the stretchers in the garage at home!  Rapidly worked up three unused dry pieces that have been cluttering up my bag for some time.  Got it all together, wedges wedged, all glued and even just about levelled.  Then came the tricky part of cutting off the tops of the legs and wedges without cutting the top, which, if you’ve been paying attention, you will remember now has a name burnt on it and a coat of oil.  Touching the top whilst sawing would be very inconvenient, so I had lunch.  This is often a brilliant strategy.  During lunch I came up with this solution:

I worked up a thin sliver of old oak that was lying in the shavings (see tidying up would have been a disadvantage) and drilled an inch hole in it.  I had to enlarge the hole as the top of each leg had been swelled out by the wedge.  It certainly kept the saw blade away from the finished seat:

Sorry about the Silky saw, but that is what I use all the time – it does give a rather fine finish to the cut, and copes equally well with green and dry wood.  I bought a thin dowel saw with the set on one side only, but didn’t find it very satisfactory and anyway it went West with the last Land Rover (tirade starts about thieving rogues who should devote their evil energies into a proper job etc).

After sawing the ends off just needed knife work to remove the small stub:

This is how it turned out:

Coopers and canoes; other people’s work

Today was a good day.

A promising start, despite the wind and showers, with this post on the bodger’s Ask and Answer forum

If you think the craft is a marvel watch the video in Robin Wood’s post and see how one is made.  They don’t make cars like this!  More’s the pity.

At work no more tops of trees blew off like yesterday, narrowly missing two ladies of advanced years.  Bloody poplars, no good for anything but matches, but, just in case, I’ve taken four foot to see whether it makes a decent carved bowl.  From the last couple of poplar tops that blew off, I tried turning, that wasn’t very much fun.  The grain is rather coarse and breaks up under the chisel.

As I was fixing up the new Flying Shavings name boards:

I asked a visitor whether it was level, he helped out and then started asking about my tools.  He wanted to look at the maker’s name on my draw knife.  Turned out he knew a thing or two as he used to be a cooper.  We had a good discussion about how many coopers are left, where they are, whether they use a draw knife properly (on the shear), what sort of oak is used for coopering (Russian sessile oak, unfortunately post Revolution timber is studded with shrapnel and bullets, which is bad news for the sawyer), types of cooper (wet,dry and white (the latter for dairy goods)), the decline of coopering, why American oak barrel staves are imported to Scotland (Bourbon can only be matured in a new oak barrel), inappropriateness of American white oak for beer barrels (too much tannin that taints the beer), how herring barrels were sealed (not like beer barrels because they’re full of fish and you have to put the heads in from the outside, not the inside), sharpness of chisels (the one I’d made the day before not having a keen edge as yet, pending trials on the angle – it’s a beading skew). One of my best, most interesting visitors.

And while we’re on old stories, David, my fortnightly apprentice, told me a great one about an engineer’s tool box legacy.  In the engineering factory where he was apprenticed, the tradition was that if an engineer died in the traces (i.e. whilst still employed) his tool chest was raffled to the apprentices, the proceeds being either given to the widow or used to buy flowers (those were the days, eh?).  An engineer’s tool chest was not to be sneezed at, it had two shallow drawers at the top where all the sexy measuring instruments were housed.  On the death in traces of Victor Silvester (let us call him) his tool chest was duly auctioned.  David paid for his ticket, but was very disappointed to be unlucky in the draw.  However, when the ‘lucky’ winner opened the first shallow drawer he was greeted by Victor’s ‘work’ false teeth, he came to work in his best ‘home’ teeth and then changed into his work ones.  (I suppose you need to know where he died to work out whether these teeth were is best or second best!)

Wild about Wood

Just returned from a good weekend at Kew at Castle Howard’s Wild about Wood.  Pretty busy with a joint display of turning on the pole lathe, making a stool, have a goes and three charcoal burns:

But Jane was there helping out, and so was Richard D (many thanks for sterling efforts both!)

The Friday burn turned out the usual amount of brown ends, but far too many on Saturday’s burn, emptied Sunday.  I’d closed it down too early, but the brown ends went back in and the outturn of Sunday’s burn, opened today was just two bags of charcoal and NO brown ends at all.  It was a little tricky watching the burn smoke colour and chatting to people and doing demos, sometimes all at the same time.  However, the emphasis of the weekend was education and several groups of people went away knowing much more about charcoal than they did when they came in.  A couple of people also learnt the difference between sawdust and shavings (and they were not children!)  Bit showery on Saturday, but a lovely sunny day Sunday with lots of visitors.

We camped in our classic 2nd hand de Waard dutch tent and cooked all-in-one-pot meals each night in the dutch oven.

The arboretum is really well laid out in what used to be parkland with mature oaks and chestnuts, and much more recent plantings of trees from around the world.  Lots of different oaks etc.  Here’s a sample of the trees and vistas:

The lathe was set up in a little hornbeam copse.

We also had a surprise visit from two German journeymen carpenters who were looking for work at The Arboretum.

They were wearing the traditional carpenter’s dress and were fully trained craftsmen looking for further experience by travelling. You can read more about the German journeyman system here on Robin Wood’s blog.

Real life

Need I say more? …

“Hello Richard

Thank you for your enquiry this morning for 10mm square O1 tool steel

I suggest what you need is Precision Groound Flat Stock or Gauge Plate as it is otherwise known

We do stock this but as we have a £50 minimum order charge excluding carriage, we are not the best option on this occaision

I have, however, spoken with Phoenix Steels in Sheffield and they do have 6 pieces in stock and do not have a minmum order charge, so can I suggest you e-mail Paul at Phoenix on paul@toolsteels.co.uk and he will quote you a price and delivery

We would be pleased to help in future on any other enquiry you may have, but felt it would not be appropriate to quote you such a high price for what you can source for less than £10 elsewhere, it’s not our way of doing business

Hope that helps – they will take creidt cards and send it today on a next day delivery if you wish

Good Luck

Les Fife
Manging Director
European Tool Steels Limited
http://www.europeantoolsteels.co.uk
Company Registration Number 3607069
VAT Registered Number GB721 6495 35
Telephone: +44 (0)1937 588286″

Not a bit like a banker then.  There is still hope for the human race – and business.

New York trip

Upstate New York

Jane and I are off to New York at the back end of October for 10 days when things inside and outside the woods will have quietened down and felling will not yet have started.We will be spending most of the time in NY City but we will have a trip up to The Adirondacks for a couple of days. I’m having trouble finding where the old growth is in the ‘Dacks can anyone help?

Any suggestions for NY (state or city) woody “not to be missed” s would be much appreciated. Forget about Statue of Liberty and all that tourist stuff we know about that already.

This place in Brooklyn (where my son lives) looks good: http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/Merchant/merchant.mvc?Screen=NEXT&StoreCode=toolstore&nextpage=/extra/bowsawdesign.html Whizzo stuff on frame saws too as well as a museum.

Lots of places seem to close mid October but we will not be there until 22nd 😦  I am interested in visiting a Shaker museum, but the main one seems to be in the throws of a relocation.
Naturally we will be hoping to see some spectacular fall colours.
On another day-off note we went to Halow Carr RHS garden in Harrogate on Friday (combined with delivering yet another deer)  And I took this photo of an oak.
Not a brilliant picture, but it shows an oak tree growing with no trees surrounding.  In Strid Wood trees are crammed in with each other and do not grow that shape, but tall with all the branches in the canopy at the top.  I keep wondering which is more ‘natural’ and I incline to the woodland setting.
Amongst lots of other interesting things at Harlow Carr we visited the :
This is a library and education centre which has been built to a very high spec.  Triple glazing, facing South, ground sourced heat exchanger-based underfloor heating, low energy electrics, automatic window openers, and a copper roof.  My wife’s idea of heaven.  It opened in July and looks very smart inside; here is a classroom:
Good colour-scheme.
I’m not going to mention the outside seating, except that among the dodgy construction method was this trap for small legs under the picnic tables: