I’ve got my hands …


“It is a tragedy of the first magnitude that millions of people have ceased to use their hands as hands. Nature has bestowed upon us this great gift which is our hands. If the craze for machinery methods continues, it is highly likely that a time will come when we shall be so incapacitated and weak that we shall begin to curse ourselves for having forgotten the use of the living machines given to us by God.”
Mahathma Ghandi

Copied over from the website of an excellent young craftsman.

All I can add is hear! hear!

Ta dah – the story teller’s seat’s tale.

I’ve been at Allerton Primary School finishing off the storyteller’s seat.

This was the set up

Hey, you can tell it’s a school! First aid box, double ropes, tools to the rear, visitor label blowing in the breeze.

I’ve been working on this chair for a few days in hopes of getting it finished today.  It took ages to fix those seat slats, two oak dowels at the back and one at the front, all at opposing angles to make sure everything stayed solid.  I jokingly thought I was going to bore those 15 holes 3 inches deep with a 3/8ths spoon (piercer) bit in a brace.  Bearing in mind this is drying oak, I pretty soon gave up on that and drilled large pilot holes with the anabaric* drill and just finished them with the brace and bit.

Once I’d got them all settled and one of the back pieces mounted and started on an arm rest, interest from those attending the school’s open day started to grow – well it started looking a bit like a chair.

“Are you going to leave it here?”

“Is it hard work?”

“Would you like a cup of tea?” Came the questions thick and fast.  Thought I’d left the armrest risers behind, but then found them in the Land Rover.  Time was ticking by only 12 noon ’til 3pm to get it all done.  Fastened on the second back board and the crest rail, and then the decorative top bead (where I used the only four 3″ rose headed nails in the job) and finally the finials.

Ah all was calming down now, I was going to get it finished and two ladies who attended the school in the 1950/60s (when I was at primary school too) took up seats to watch the finishing touches – fitting the second arm rest, knifing off any remaining rough bits, axing the armrests to size, shaving off pencil marks … all whilst discussing wood types, treatment of outdoor furniture, screening materials and the evils of carbon miles on imported wood.

At last it was finished and everyone had to have a trial sit …

“Comfortable, if I win the triple roll-over lottery tonight I’m having one!”

“Before you put your tools away, you’ve missed a rough bit on the right hand armrest.”

“Let me home to that cold, Rose Cottage beer.”


Hot or what?

So hot today the cattle on Silsden Moor were cooling off in the flood water left over from two weeks ago! Crazy weather, but I suppose the English weather is a bit like that – it was no more than about 9 centigrade at Otley Show on Saturday, but today it’s been about 24.  Very hot and sweaty for hewing oak into a storyteller’s chair.  Here is the progress so far:

Today I hewed some arm rests and turned three finials so my hands are black as the fire back again.  I’m aiming to get most of the parts finished in the trailer/workshop and then the kids at the commissioning school can help to put it together on Saturday.  Tomorrow I need to turn another riser for the second arm-rest and make 8 one inch x 6 inch oak pegs and cut the bottom two back boards to size.  The style is inspired by the 16th century great chairs, but of course is nothing like one!

Beech ball part 2

Phew! Work is getting rather hectic.  After the holiday away in Dorset at The Ball, I had a couple of days in The Bodgery and then a day in Cumbria at Moss and Height Spring Woods helping to peel oak coppice.

I’m the softee wearing the gauntlets, my damaged finger still needs a little protection and I wasn’t sure how the tannin in the oak might affect it. It was a magical day.  A great crowd of the Coppice  Association NW (CANW) gathered with a large variety of oak peeling weapons (tools) and a couple of chainsawyers.

This Woodland Trust Woodland is oak coppice which is cut on a much longer rotation than hazel.  The wood is leased to Bill Hogarth MBE Memorial Apprenticeship Trust and managed by CANW according to a written coppice management plan.  The whole point of peeling the bark from the oak is a cash crop for the trust.  The bark is bundled up and collected in Autumn by J & FJ Baker, the only remaining tannery to use oak bark in the leather tanning industry in the UK.  The by-product is a large pile of peeled oak poles which have a beautiful surface texture and can be used for many purposes.  I’ll be using a bunch of them for a fence to complement the double oak gates I made last year for a client.

Thanks for the photos David.

Then on Friday I built a woven hazel fence in situ 

And now I check the photo there seem to be a couple of imperfections that could have been remedied – never mind though the spaces will allow the wind to be filtered through rather than blown over as often happens with the lap larch fence panels that are so popular in gardens for some reason. A hazel panel is not meant to be impenetrable, except by sheep!

On Saturday it was Otley Show, our first of the year.  A great little show with lots going on (not that I got to see anything other than the odd vintage tractor, ferret cage and marching band as they passed by). We again had a good pitch right next to the pedestrian entrance looking out towards the lake and Otley Chevin.  Busy turning and demonstrating all day, having carelessly left all the turned stock hanging up in my store-room.  Fortunately there were quite a few have-a-goers to give me some respite.  The sun even came out towards the end, but no sunburn this year. Lots of interest in my courses.

Anyway, rewind back to The Beech Ball.  There are lots of classes of craft and activities to enter, but I couldn’t afford the time or diesel to take my set up so far down South (clocked 300 odd miles on the way back).  I did enter the 1/2 hour challenge to make something saleable for a demo.

My 1/2 hour challenge item was a set of six napkin rings made from a locally scavenged cherry branch, made on the same basis as a shrink pot using an inch auger held in a newly acquired (at t’Ball) beech  screw clamp, Silky saw to cut into thirds, middle then clean up with a crooked knife and finishing touches with a straight knife.  Alas I didn’t come in the first three, James Pumfrey takes some beating with his half-hour pole lathe turned bowl.

We also got down to the Dorset Jurassic coast as it was only a couple of miles away, through exciting twisted back lanes.

Seemed like ages since we’d seen the sea, but we were at Bamborough not long ago.

On the beach here at Charmouth the ‘rocks’ are fossiliferous and there is much hunting goes on in this stuff:

We found a few small ammonites and iron pyrites.

Well lots of things went on at the Ball, check out Sean Hellman and Mark Allery’s blogs for more reports.  The food was especially delicious from The Peasant Evolution Producers’ Co-Operative.

Beech Ball


We’re back from a long weekend 300 miles away down South in Dorset for the Bodgers’ Beech Ball or AGM. We camped in the woods with our massive Dutch tent:

We’d picked my daughter Nim up from Bristol railway station on the way down and she had a happy time away from the smoke of London, into the smoke of our cooker and Kelly Kettle:

I can recommend the pineapple cooked in foil on the red boy (our Vietnamese charcoal-fired cooker)

There was lots to se and do: Henry was there framing:

Excellent demo of using the frame saw without a pit!

Sean Hellman gave a very detailed and interesting talk about natural sharpening stones.

Barn was there making and explaining how to make spoons:

Jane and Nim practiced Swedish knife grips in one of his sessions. Here he is in a more life-like size:


Sorry about the hazy focus!

Must get off to work, very busy this week with Otley Show, weaving a fence, peeling oak in The Lakes and getting a story chair ready for assembly during a school open day for the following weekend.

Part 2 of The Ball coming soon.