Goose-stepping horses

We were at Otley Show at the weekend.  This is a very old-established agricultural show mixing all sorts of attractions: pole lathe turning ( – obviously!); vintage tractors, rabbits, fly fishing demonstrations, dry stone walling, farrier competitions, goose-stepping military bands (well one cornet player anyway). And that was just what I could see from my stand.  There were reportedly lots more including ferret racing, sheep shearing, heavy horses, micro breweries … but those tied to their pole lathe have to work.  And chat.  Occasionally eat a sandwich … and chat at the same time (Why didn’t I sit at the back of the shelter like I planned to do when I left that space for the very purpose? Love my public too much?)

And another rhetorical question – why is it that every time I put up the shelter it’s always different?  This time I was using the white tarpaulin, so it was a different colour from the more usual green.  But also I tried to copy the Sussex APT group’s shelter erection by fastening the main pull-up rope to the A-frame before offering it up to the ridge pole, and thus avoiding having to stand on the chopping block/horse/bench and lash the top of the A-frame together.  Of course it didn’t work out, producing an out-of-level cross pole on the A-frame, so I still had to climb up and not only lash the poles from a teetering position, but also unlash ’em first.  This probably means nothing to anyone who has not erected a pole shelter before, but, dear reader, it will mean something to you soon.  Next show I’m going to run a video camera of the setting up.  Then, using some technology I’ve not yet discovered, speed it up to a frantic pace, should be quite amusing, but if not, at least it will be certain to be different from the last time I put it up.  Ah well, variety is the spice of life.

The horse breeding season seems to be going quite well.  Jane was using her new gypsy flower pony and got a few take-ups on the have-a-go front, here she is:

Took an order for a heavy-duty horse at the show too – that’s a first. I have another horse out at grass preparing for its debut at the Gardener’s World Live show at the NEC.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch … Philip had an enjoyable day today (he tells me) making a stool – it’s actually four-legged, he’s working on the last one at the horse.

Amazing what a sheet of tarpaulin can do, this was on a day of torrential rain and gale-force winds (but as they were in the West, filtered by the trees).

A note for Mr D – the rocket stove performed admirably drying the leg tenons in short order, and even providing hot water for tea toot sweet.

Tail piece

Whilst getting hazel for gypsy flowers I discovered some broomrape, I’m afraid I only had my ancient phone (remember when taking a photo with a phone was a novelty?) so the picture quality is a bit dodgy:

I’m working on finding out more about this variety as there are 200+ in the species.  Looks like it paracitises hazel.

Shrinkburkar super cutter

If you are not of a technical woody bent click here now, but if you would like to find out about the industrial making of shrink pots, read on …

Once we’ve got over the tedious parts of making a green wood tube

And smoothed down the rough edges left by the gouge …

(Here I’m using the knife in the vice technique), OK all done, ready for the groove for the base:

And now … the Sean Hellman shrink pot base groove cutter kit (I’m sure he’ll have a snappier name for it!)  Sean will be supplying a knife blade, handle and nut (or the complete croze, I read), check this out here: Sean Hellman: Shrink pot, and a shrink pot croze.  All you need to do is to mount the knife on a baton and the handle in a base board, thusly:

The idea is that the cutter can be moved up and down by loosening the handle and then tightening it in place so that the top of the base groove can be cut accurately.  Traditionally this is done with a knife, which works, but is slightly hit and miss and a little slow.  If you offer up your shrink pot tube and rapidly whizz it round against the knife, so …

an accurate 90 degree cut in the inside of the pot results.  You can see from this photo that I used a conventional screw to fix the knife blade and two of the Manchester variety.

I then used a converted marking gauge to enlarge the cut into a groove

The end is a cross-section of a cuboid and more like a turning chisel than anything:

And the result is a square ended slot with a sloped profile to help with inserting the base:

And here’s the base with is a loose fit here, but this morning is tightening up nicely.

The base is ash and the main tube is sycamore, I’m not sure sycamore is my preferred option – I bust one while doing the final inside smoothing.  I think the radial strength is a bit lacking as there are many small medullary rays.  On the other hand silver birch can be carved much thinner and is really strong.

And now as a counter stroke to the horrible green shades of the workshop – thanks to the green tarp I was obliged to swap for the white one – a gratuitous frothy picture of the Wharfe


Whilst I was dinner monitor last evening, making pizza, I noticed on the olives packet a note that a cocktail stick is included.  Funny, you’d think more than one person would be eating them – surely not meant to share the cocktail stick?  Anyways, it was a nice turned stick, I wonder if it’s bulk production from Mark Allery’s contact in Vancouver?

Gleanings from Herefordshire

We ‘re just back from the Bodgers’ Ball in Herefordshire.  The annual gathering of green woodworkers took place at Lower Brockhampton House, an old timber-built moated manor house with a magnificent gatehouse and beautiful parkland.

The door on the gate house is rather fine, with another small door set in it:

The timber frames have all been covered in whitening, a feature I’ve not seen before – they’re often painted black (possibly a later fashion) or untreated.

There was a cracking split oak fence:

Looks to me like it grew out of the land (which, of course, it did like that oak tree next to it).

There was a lot of stuff going on:

But not at 6 in the morning, except maybe in the pasture over the hedge:

A few cows having breakfast:

Looked like the pasture could do with Steve Tomlin’s scything to get rid of those weeds.

Amongst lots of other things Steve is addicted to mowing with scythes, a whole new universe of useful body work.

I met a great guy, Alan Waters who was there making pimps (used to light the fire).  They are made with the twiggy ends left over from other coppicing activities and split kindling, and very fine they look too (I bet they are really good for lighting your fire too!).  Some very sophisticated machinery is involved, including “The Machine” above front right, a 5lb pimp cleaver:

This photo also shows Alan’s “boy” which holds the twiggy stuff while it’s being cloven into frith, prior to binding on the table with the woodman’s vice.

A pimp is bound in the ‘machine ‘ from 25 individual fire-lighting bundles.  There’s a good video of Alan explaining his craft here .

I had a go on Sean Hellman’s cross cut saw challenge.  Rich D and I didn’t break any records but it was a good aerobic workout.  Here’s Sean testing out someone’s saw (he’s the one who sensibly removed his hat before starting):

I also bought a nice tool kit for making the base groove in a shrink pots from Sean.  I will be doing a report on this in this place in the next few days, watch this blog.

This was the biggest ever gathering of the APLTAGWW and there really was a lot happening (but no loud music, blaring PAs nor ice cream vans! (OK, perhaps occasionally the soft purring of a lone chainsaw preparing logs for the log to leg challenge)). Maybe the gentle roar of the charcoal-making retort.

Damn cunning use of the exhaust gases to add gaseous fuel to the fire and increase efficiency:

And perhaps now and then the rhythmical toc toc of a framer demonstrating hewing logs square:

This is Henry Russel. He also explained the finer points of the shape of the head of a side axe, which he is using in this photo.  Also the angle of the haft which bends away from the timber being worked on so you don’t catch your knuckles.

Gudrun Leitz clearly explained the principles she uses when designing and making free-form stools and chairs.  We’d visited Clissett Wood where Gudrun holds chair-making courses which I attended a couple of years ago. The seat of the chair she is talking about in the photo is made from small leaved lime bark, really stunning:

Not easy to get the stuff, but very, very beautiful!

There were lots and lots of interesting and friendly people there, too many to mention them all.  And I found a new friend in this fraxinus excelsior just coming into leaf.

Harlow Carr

I’ve spent the last four days at RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate (or Harrowgate as we spell it in Bolton Abbey!), busy on the pole lathe

It was a very good four days where I met lots of interesting and interested people.  But I was struggling a bit with the lathe for the first couple of days.  Then I realised that it wasn’t just the unfamiliarity of the knock-down travelling show lathe, but the fact that it was out of level on the sloping ground.

Sorted it out with a couple of chocks.  This being the first outdoor event of the year (apart from work, which is always outdoors at Strid Wood!) I had a couple of teething problems, like forgetting the burning wire to scorch rings on the demo dibbers.  I had to improvise with some copper wire I had.

DON”T TRY THIS AT HOME!  The wire conducts the heat very well, right up to your fingers, it also gets hot enough to lose its strength and snap.  However, I got by until I could cobble up a new steel wire (brake cable from the bike) one.

I managed to get over and see Phil Bradley, basket maker.

He makes some fine stuff and I got this basket from him:

It’s based on a half bushel fruit basket.  Phil’s email address is, he’s based in Cumbria but works around the North of England.

Jane got to have a look around the garden and spotted a wall being made home for alpine plants – I think we’ll have another project in our garden soon.