Yew’ll enjoy these draining days off in the meadow.

I’ve had a very busy week at home with my grown up children.  Some of the highlights were SSSI wild flower meadows (above). Finishing a yew draining borad, visiting Saltaire – again (still good), getting lots of bike advice, cooking and eating, drinking beer from Saltaire, Ilkley, Rose Cottage and Belgium.  And, of course, le tour de France!

The Wild flower meadow is at the site of the fever hospital between Grassington and Hebden in North Yorkshire.  It is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest because it is a now rare example of the diverse flora that used to grow in hay meadows, now sadly almost all blown away by the change by farmers to making silage from mono-cultured perennial rye grass.  There are about 50 species in this meadow, here are some of the ones we spotted from the flagged path through the two fields.

Meadow sweet (the tall white ones), dog daisy, Great Burnet, ribbed plantain.

Buttercup, scabius, red clover, sorrel,  goatsbeard, yellow rattle (seed heads).  The latter is a very interesting plant, as a hemiparasite it attaches itself to the roots of other plants in the meadow to extract nutrients and water.  It prefers to paratise grasses which thus encourages growth of the flowering herbs and suppresses the growth of competing grass.

I’ve also had to get the draining board finished for my son and his wife to take back home to Brooklyn.  We decided to keep it as natural as possible with the draining runnels following the grain like rivers:

It is a beutiful bit of yew, even if it was a challenge to plane.

On the way back from the airport, we called in at Ravenden Wood at Smithills Hall, Bolton.  A clough wood – that is in a steep-sided stream valley, very peaceful after the big city of Manchester and its airport.

Dappling through the beeches

Fine spalting in the stump of a very recently felled beech.

Town and country.



Get a new head & make a spoon

I’m trying to refine my spoon carving skills.  Making spoons is not my main day job, and I’ve had slow sales, then in the last week, I’ve sold three, taken an order for an engraved one and had the best one I ever made stolen (it was made from a crooked branch and was a cranked ladle with a pointed pouring lip – birch, if you see it, smack its bum and send it home, it had a hook on the back to hang it off the side of a pot – here it is:


I’m going to concentrate on making this spoon as seen in the above series.  Pretty small and thin and with endless opportunities for decorations at the top (the commissioned one will have  a hazel nut, echoing the wood type).

There is no Summer in the UK this year – the Jet Stream has gone on holiday apparently! However, the meadowy sides of the road into Bolton Abbey don’t seem to mind, these spotted orchids have grown very tall:

I’ve been making the shave horse modification as  Peter Galbert has neen kindly telling us about.

I got to the final stages today

Planing the base of the bed – from sweet chestnut.  Look how you can hold a piece of wood.  Holdfast at the far end. A dog underneath to slope it 10 degrees (or 1″ in 4″, I believe) and a dog aside, to stop the work wandering about the bench. It looks so rough as I was using the scrub plane.  Finished it off with the jointer.

I did some glueing yesterday. This is the leg with the ratchet.  Notice the filled tooth where I drilled for a dowel in the wrong place whilst talking to a passerby.  I don’t use steel cramps much but they were very useful this time, and here’s a wooden one …

Blimey!  Bit of an bondage moment, but these pieces are very technical.  The wooden cramp is great.  I tried to make one (an other unfinished project).  They work so well , I must make some more.  I acquired this one at The Bodgers’ Ball this year in Devon.

This is the old horse stripped down readying for the new Smarthead (© Peter Galbert).

The slot needed enlarging:

I noticed the original cut-out was done with the chainsaw, I was a bit quieter this time and chopped it out.

That’s about as far as I got as I managed to break the top-toothed member in testing.  I’d used ash and the gluing hadn’t taken (lousy planing I’m afraid t have to blummin’ admit (again)).  I’ll be remaking it in elm – no way that’ll split.

Watch this space but I’m off work for a week now, breaking in my new clogs

… so don’t hold your breath.


Woodsman’s poems

I was going to have a day off tomorrow at The Great Yorkshire Show for the first time in about 40 years, and the ticket was free!  However, I won’t be buying new Silky saw blades or checking out the goats or the thousand other things that go on there.  It’s rained off. (What in England – doesn’t it rain there all the time anyway? … Yes)

So instead of lots of pictures of animals and crafts here are two poems from a book of John Clare’s poems, lent to me by my brother (The Woodcutter’s Night Song):

Lie ye there indeed, work again tomorrow, making the Peter Galbert dumb head ratchet modification for my shave horse.

This one has a good evocation of what a cottage might have once been like:

Visitors to The Bodgery


A toad came to visit today, it entertained the local school children on their way for an ice cream at The Cavendish Pavilion.  Toady was hanging around the log piles yesterday, but today came into the workshop, didn’t seem to like the dry shavings and left after about 15 minutes.

Another chap turned up on the other side of The Wharfe:


Lacking a telephoto lens, I’ll have to explain that this is  grey heron. This seems to be a favourite fishing place for them – the dark hole in the undergrowth is where the beck (aka stream outside Yorkshire) from The Valley of desolation merges with The Wharfe.  I understand that where different waters meet often increases fauna numbers.

I have been working on and off on making a joint stool from a part of a tree, following Peter Folansbee‘s excellent book How to make a Joint Stool from a Tree.  Peter works in Plimoth Plantation Museum in Massachusetts as a joiner.  The book explains the principles and techniques involved in making a joint stool (They look like this:


There are many styles, as you would expect from a piece of furniture made in the 16th 17th centuries in both England and The Colonies.  I have a large piece of oak butt cut down last year by The Estate on the road into Bolton Abbey, probably about 3 foot diameter which I have been splitting down and planing into the stock for a stool.


This is a beech log I had to split for Bike racks, nowhere near as massive as the oak I’m working, but I seem to have been singularly poor in documenting in photos the log conversion, but now I’m about to start the mortise and tenon joints in the legs (stiles) and will keep you pictorially posted, I hope.  The massive log is needed to get the width of the single board top – 11 inches.  That doesn’t sound so big until you realise it needs to come from one half of the log, add to that: the middle 4 inches of the log are useless (except as firewood) and the outside 3 inches on either side are sapwood and bark that have to be rejected as the beetles like them as a browsing ground.

The smell of the green oak drives my customers wild, and I must say I rather like it mysel.

And speaking of smells, the wild woodbine is in bloom in Strid just now:

As well as the elderflower,

That’s the white flowering bush behind my workshop.  I’ve used some elderflower to condition my last two brews of beer (dry hopping it would be called if I’d used hops as usual), and I must say the results are good.  I’ll be taking a sample down to The Brothers Naylor’s Brewery whence my other ingredients come for them to taste.

Oh yes, I’ve been on with various projects too : here’s a yew stool:

The tenon wedges are bog oak – it’s like coal but with the nature of oak.  The top is worked with my signature knifed finish: