Deer, owl, elves, and a new saw(ing)horse, oh yes, and a very useful book.


It gets very busy for me from now until Christmas, then I have a great time at home, having Christmas (roll it out!)

However, back to the present and All Hallows Even. There is a pumpkin (or punking as they seem to insist on saying round here (Are you sure? -Ed.)) trail through Strid Wood. Witches and giant rats (some on my bodgery even) litter the woods and the children have a great time. The woods seem to do something to/for them and I’m pleased to see it (but the volume of it gets a bit wild sometimes)

Anyway, I ran a deer making course as it’s half term, and I had three great 13-year-old students making animals. They broke all time records as they were really good at concentrating on the job in hand, getting on with it, taking advice, and they were also very polite – there’s hope for the future! As they were so quick we had to have improvised time fillers – pole lathe, elf carving and … a new line, owl head making in about 10 minutes:

The spalted sycamore was kicking about from my conversion of the horrid old sawing horse that didn’t really cut the mustard, into a super new, Cumbrian style Owen Jones job:

I had to saw the tops of the support logs level and ended up with a wedge-shaped slice with two off one inch and a half holes in it, I was going to make something with it, but Paddy beat me to it.

Remember the big old axe I acquired, well the excellent book that provided the answer to the riddle arrived last week, it’s a belter:

I can’t believe this came all the way from Jarrod (check out J’s blog if you’re fed up with your workshop and noisy tools) country for £11 all in!  just look at the trades covered with hundreds of vintage illustrations from tool catalogues etc (click image for more detail):

It’s still in print but costs a great deal more than £11!

Ah, day away tomorrow, off to another wood I’ve never visited to help a family enjoy it.

This post could not be complete without an acknowledgement that our 80M ash trees seem to be under threat of devastation (but not extinction) from Chalara Fraxinea.  Terrible.

Nearly forgot, considering the drop in ambient temperature, I’m now drying the paint on elves in the elf kiln.  Works a treat and avoids having to paint them at home by the fire so the paint dries.  I guess these are now stove enamelled elves, of a sort.

Three elms, beeches and a sycamore with its pals.

The autumns in the UK are not very consistent from the quality of leaf colour perspective.  We get autumns sometimes that are just damp and dull and dreary.  But not this year, oh no!  On our lunchtime walk today, Theo and I noticed that all the little elms (God bless their short lives) have turned yellow – have a look at these three:

autumn elm



This autumn is a real pleasure, I’d love to just drive around the Dales delivering logs and gawp at the stands of beech, sycamore, and even ash this year all shining out through the dull afternoons like fire.

Good by t’Wharfe too:

So many leaves – where do they all go to?  Still some greenery about though in the alders and ferns:

Sometimes it feel;s a bit like a cool rainforest round Strid Wood, so damp.

And I’ve spotted some cheeky little fungi (as yet unidentified) growing from sycamore bark like tiny fairy gardens or summat:


What the hell here’s another gratuitous autumnal picture:


It’s not New England, but sure beats a lousy, wet, grey Autumn (or Summer for that matter!)

Harlow Carr and a new stool and … trees, mainly.

Just returned from two days at RHS Harlow Carr‘s Taste of Autumn show in Harrowgate (as we insist on calling it in Bolton Abbey).  It was a fine weekend with lots going on, from a celebration of a wide range of apple varieties, through Fungus for the Masses, to boxing hares:


Phil Bradley’s willow hares.











Phil Bradley was there chatting, and regrettably I didn’t get a chance to discuss things woody with him (he was busy chatting already and time away from my duties is limited):

Some of his wigwams were sitting pretty next to our workshop, they were very popular with young and old.

We were in The Glade.  The woodland area of Harlow Carr and the trees just blew me away, especially at this time of year.  It was foggy most of the day but the sun just about got through, enough to light up this sliver birch.

Look at the size of the beech tree we set up the workshop underneath (workshop is the tiny white bit bottom left.)

The fog came down again as we went home, and as we descended down into Barden Chase down towards Beamsley the fog rolled around:

OK so I’ve not just been driving around the countryside and turning spurtles from Chestnut (which at first seemed to be sycamore (Eh? – ed.))

I finished a little stool in richly coloured elm and yew, oh yes and an oak hand-carved bowl which includes the lighter sapwood.

The bull-nosing is free hand with the plane and the tenon wedges are bog oak.  The stool is sold but the bowl is looking for a home.

The Village Carpenter


English: The village carpenter 70 x 49 cm. sig...

The village carpenter signed l.r.; (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m reading “The Village Carpenter” by Walter Rose.  I bought this on the recommendation of a blog I was reading (which I don’t seem to be able to find just now but it has certainly been on Sean Hellman’s and Peter Folansbee’s).  This was written in the 1930s by Mr Rose who was born in 1871, so his grandfather’s business went back to very traditional times.

I’ve just read the chapter on making and repairing wooden pumps cut from green elm on the farm where they are to be used.  Excellent!

There is some nostalgia to this book, but it is tempered with facts like it was getting difficult to hire sawyers for pit sawing shortly before it became defunct.  The book is therefore nicely balanced between the old fashioned ways and the changes taking place way back then.  Here’s a sample about tin roofing (it should get bigger if you click on the scanned image):

You can still buy the book, it is a real classic and immensely enjoyable.  The modern print is paperback, I managed to get a secondhand hardback copy (with a 1947 inscription inside).

Last night Jane and I attended a talk by Ian Dewhirst

This was about Keighley between the World Wars.  Ian is an old time raconteur who used to work in the reference library in Keighley, well I say worked there – he was more of an institution and dedicated to recording local history.

There were many gems in his talk, but the one I’d like to share is about a lady who brought  a spoon to the library for the archives.  Ian had an open invitation for people to bring him historical material.  It turned out the wooden spoon was her father’s issued to him when he was posted to Russia after the First World War fighting with the White Army, because metal spoons would have been impractical.  The punch line of the story was that she had also had all his letters home from Russia – but they had burnt them all!  SHe didn’t think they were important because he was only a lance corporal.

What’s my mallet?

Well strictly speaking a maul:

I use this one for splitting rocks with wooden wedges.

And by the way, that old axe was known as a “long axe”, and it became obsolete in the mid 19th century, blimey, no wonder, it was used as a felling axe!  Apparently it was good for undercutting a deep gob in the front of the tree because of its length.  Ah those were the bad old days when men were men, and died young, many in their traces.

It was good to get the answer from Tom who’d looked the monster axe up in Salaman, R. A’s Dictionary of tools used in the woodworking and allied trades.  Some of these instruments of torture were 15 inches long!  They were superseded by those designed by the sensible US guys (well OK, probably Sheffield guys who got lost going home from the pub and landed up in Pittsburgh) who balanced the blade with a poll at the back, and put fat cheeks on to make it easier to withdraw from a cut, a bit like stone-age axes in fact.  Takes a long time for ideas to catch on sometimes, eh?

Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Bishops' House,Norton Lees, Sheffield

English: Bishops’ House,Norton Lees, Sheffield (Photo credit: Wikipedia)