Five ton gates

This morning I went early to:

Five Rise Locks on the Leeds Liverpool canal where the lock gates have just been replaced and British Waterways (soon to become a charitable trust) held an open day to celebrate.  And what a thing to celebrate.  This is a section of the canal where the barges go through five lock either up or down using gates that weigh 5 tons each and are manufactured from green oak in BW’s Wakefield workshops.  The deal was a walk through the lock beds where you can only walk but occasionally, the gates are expected to last for 25 years, so I may not be around next time.  The turnout of people was impressive, a large queue had formed by the time I had chatted my way through attempting to make the many attendant employees’ day less than boring.

One of the otherwise hidden gems was the masons’ marks to show who had worked which stone and therefore needed payment:

See the two top stones with a half arrow pointing left and the star on the one below?  There were many different marks, it must have been a massive operation when they were first built in 1774.

There was a video playing at the canal-side showing in time-lapse photography the manufacture of the gates and their installation.  This is supposed to be on-line in April – watch this space!

I had today away from the woods, as I was there yesterday running a deer and fox making course: great fun:


Ah too much fun!  Back to felling tomorrow.

Remember when (a looooong time ago) it was so difficult to download anything that there were no limits?

Mind you, what you get in those gigabytes is pretty damn good!

(Don’t worry, I’m watching that usage, I’m not willing to spend £5 per GB just by being lackadaisical (phew, tricky word!))

Peeled posted and wrung

Here’s a post and rung stool I’m working up for an exhibition coming up in April (Ah, joyous month!) at Farfield Mill at Sedbergh.  The event is Working Woodlands and is intended to show the range and quality of products that come out of coppicing woodland.  There will be a special section devoted to products made from Moss and Heights Spring Wood timber.  I’m making my stool above with peeled oak from there, and it will have an elm bast seat woven from bark from Strid Wood (West meets East kind of style!).

Do call in if you can get there.

Sawing up and settling down.

Last week we took down a bough that had blown down in a recent gale and embedded itself upright in the ground.

Didn’t take long to down it and get it sawn up.

And all the brash burnt.

Then yesterday we went out at dusk to watch this display …

What the ..


Just a few thousand



Tomorrow it’s the start of felling.

What I did on my birthday – tomorrow

I started my birthday early, yesterday.  It’s due tomorrow but I started it early with a walk on the moor above our cottage – I like to stoke up the stove before I set off so I can see the smoke on the way.

I grew up in this village, here are a couple of scenes.

The quarry

We used to play up here as kids, never fell off the top, or even tried to climb it, well not far anyway.  And just in the field next to it is Hardacre Barn…

When I worked on the dairy farm across the road from home I used to have to walk up to this ‘outbarn’ as they are called and feed and muck out dry cattle that wintered there.  The outbarn is a very traditional building round here, mostly about this size.  The small ‘window’ on the sunny side is where the muck was thrown out onto the midden below.  The cattle were housed tied in the shippon at the bottom over them was the baulks where the hay was stored and at the top end the fothergang from where the beasts were fed.  It was the last job on a Sunday morning and I had to run down the field to the sound of the church bells calling me to sing in the choir at matins.

Anyway, today we visited Cliffe Castle museum, which is only 4 miles away but I’d not been there for many years.  It was occupied in the late 19th century by the Butterfield family who adopted a griffon as their heraldic motif, makes a prosaic lightning conductor quite stunning:

You can see the ‘B’ of Butterfield in the wind-vane.  The builder (well the commissioner) Christopher Netherwood was a solicitor, but the building was extensively remodelled by his beneficiary textile millionaire Henry Butterfield.  The contrast between his public rooms and the squalor that most folk in Keighley (the local town) lived in must have been extreme, and I must say I find it rather obscene:

However, the museum has a good section on the tools used by the craftsmen of the time including wheelwrights, pipe-makers, clog iron and nail makers and cloggers.  Check out these stock knives.

I can’t understand why the handles were so curved.  In the film the clogger is always cripplingly bent over.  A straight handle would have cured this.  During the film there is no point where a straight handle would have been a disadvantage.  Peg makers’ knives, I believe were straight-handled.  The one I have was sold to me as a clogger’s but I suspect it is actually a peg-maker’s.

The clogger’s shop has an accompanying video filmed by Sam Hanna in mid 20th century as trades were dying out.  There’s in the museum another film by him showing the making of clog irons and nails and the transition from hand working to power hammers.  This is particularly interesting for me as the next village to us Silsden was famous for making irons and nails, at one time there were 200 forges at work there.

The Sam Hannah documentary films are great, but I think they are only available at the North West Film Archive. (See foot of this post for the range of crafts covered on his films).

There is a short composite extract on uTube here

Then we went to one of our favourite local destinations, Salts Mill.  This is at Saltaire which is a village and massive textile mill built by Sir Titus Salt.  I should do a separate post on this sometime, but you can find out more about this world heritage site here:

We had lunch in the lively Diner there:

Then after obtaining my birthday present, a new chain for my bike, we went on to Bradford Industrial Museum.

This 3/4 car took my fancy.  It’s called a Scott Social.  Scott was a motorcycle manufacturing business in Bradford, and this is actually a motorbike and side car, altered so that the sidecar passengers were not isolated from the rider.  They proved unpopular, apparently, just because they had a tendency to tip over when turning left sharply.

There is a row of back to back houses at the museum, dismantled from elsewhere and rebuilt here:

These were one up, one down houses in terraces with one dwelling at the front and one at the back (hence back to back).  Many were condemned as slums in the 1960s and stupidly demolished rather than updated.  What replaced them is not so pretty usually.

Anyway, with terrace houses you got one of these:

Known round here as a back yard, where you had a privy, hung your washing, and mebbe grew something (during the Second World War only, I suspect).  It tickles me when I keep coming across ‘back yard’ in American writings, as I always tend to think of the above, whereas an American back yard is a whole different scuttle of turkeys.

Anyway a fitting end to the day was a rather brief sunset visit to the world-famous Undercliffe Cemetery, which was bought by a dozen Victorians including Sir Titus Salt, as a business venture.  It was laid out so that the prestigious lots were in the middle next to the great promenade which ends in a splendid view over Bradford, surrounding hills and valleys.  So the expensive lots were acquired by the wealthy, and this is what they did with them:

Some are very overblown, but what about this one?

They must have thought they were mighty in death as in life – fools!  In a more obscure corner there is a clogger buried who must have done well enough to have been able to afford a headstone.

However, it is not such a gloomy place and there’s even a band stand!

So all in all – yes – another Grand Yorkshire Day Out.

Films of Sam Hannah:

Village Blacksmith Tyring a wheel – The blacksmith is shown as he fits iron tyres to cart wheels.
Village Blacksmith shoeing a horse – The village smithy as he makes the shoes, and later fits them to the waiting horse.

Clay Pipe Making – The stages from the raw clay to the finished pipe are shown.

Coopering – The making of an oak cask.

Clogger – The making of a complete pair of Lancashire clogs is shown in detail.

Clog Block Maker – The last of the clog-block makers is seen as he sets out to fell an alder tree and convert it into clog blocks.

Clog Iron Maker – The last of the clog-iron makers manufacturing men’s ‘iron’ clogs.

Modern Clog Making – The mass production of Lancashire clogs in a factory in Todmorden, Lancashire.

The Village Tannery – The production of leather uppers for Lancashire clogs.

Handloom Weaving – Wool from local sheep is spun and dyed, and the weaver is seen at her loom making her cloth.

Potter – The processes involved in making clay pots.

Besom Maker – In the north of England besoms (brooms) were made of ling (heather), this film shows the manufacturing of these brooms.

Dry Stone Walling – Such walls pattern the countryside of Lancashire and Yorkshire. The walls are built of local stone, grit or limestone without the use of mortar.

Making Stained Glass – The making of stained glass windows is followed through all the stages, from the design to the finished window.

Slate Quarry – In North Lancashire, amongst the mountains of the Lake District, we see the processes of obtaining slate from the heart of the mountain for the roofing of houses.

Saddler – The making of saddles and harnesses for horses.

Horn Works – The cutting and shaping of horns for knives, forks, spoons, and table decorations.

Lancashire Rake Maker – The craftsman is shown in an old Bobbin Mill in the Furness District producing his own design of Lancashire rakes.

Tadley Rake Maker – The making of rakes in Tadley, Hampshire.

Basket Making – The making of the traditional swill basket of the Lake District from oak timber.

Making Hay Creels – These are made from hazel wood and rope and enable the farmer to carry a large amount of hay around the bleak hills.

Rope Making – The rope maker is seen at work, making ropes for the farmer and weaving harness bands for horses.

Snuff Making – The process of making camphorated/menthol snuff from imported tobacco leaves.

Haffe Net Fishing – Fishing for Salmon using a haffe net in the River Lune Estuary near Lancaster, Lancashire.

Hand made Files – The making of files by hand in Warrington, Lancashire.

Brush Making – Established in Burnley, Lancashire 1854, brushes were still being made by hand in the workshop.

Corn Dolly Making – The making of corn dollies near Preston, Lancashire, in shapes influenced by the area.

Rush Seating – The making of seats for ladder-back chairs, from rushes imported from Holland.

Oat Cake Making -The making of oval shaped cakes from a batter of oat meal, water and salt in a family-run bakery near Preston, Lancashire.

Charcoal Making – Members of a family of Charcoal Burners producing charcoal at Grizedale Forest in the Lake District.

Clock Making – The restoration of an antique clock.

Sculptor – The sculptor shaping clay, with a spatula and his fingers, to create a likeness of the head of his sitter.

Burnley Weaving Shed – The production of coloured woven cloth at Barden Mill in Burnley, Lancashire.

Working with the grain

We’ve had some rough weather recently.  Here’s the River Wharfe in spate, the bankside alders are getting rather more than just their feet wet.  But today the sun came out and gave me this sunny view of the river.

I think the little birds must be a bit happier without the wind and rain:

Here’s one of the many coal tits that come to eat the sunflower seeds from the workshop bird tables.  They are fearless these days and ignore my thuds and hammerings.  This table is about 6 feet away from the workshop stove.

I’m currently making another of my rustic-style garden benches, this one’s in oak, the shavings and the work are quite different from ash, which is what I mostly work in.

Oak is somehow brittler than ash, and the shavings oxidise a pinkish tinge in the air.

I’ve split out the legs from a single log:

They then have quite a growing form as the shape is dictated by the way the log split along the grain:

After splitting I axed off the bark and sapwood, then worked them smooth with the draw knife.  The tenons are made with a Veritas tenon cutter which makes a very sound 1 1/2″ joint into a mortice in the seat made with a scotch-eye auger.  Here’s the seat before the holes are drilled.

I’m drying the leg tenons a little at home before fixing and wedging them into the mortice holes as the seat had been milled for a couple of months whereas the legs have been left “in the log”.

I also milled some ash today with some very colourful decay.  The two inch slabs must be good for table tops I reckon.

At last the days are lengthening again, and I was surprised by my own shadow as I was milling after luncheon, the sun shone through the leafless trees to the West.